Superman and Me
The Topic Of Literacy In Superman And Me By Sherman Alexie
The central question of Sherman Alexie’s “Superman and Me” is ‘how did the gift of literacy impact Sherman Alexie’s life?’. Alexie expected more of himself than his culture did. Literacy gave him a sense of individuality by separating him from the stereotypes of Indians and he was able to “save his life” through it.
Literacy created a divide between him and his peers. Through his abilities, he was able to avoid being categorized by the traditional Indian stereotypes placed on him by outside cultures as well as his own culture. He willed himself to be the exception. Indian children were not expected, let alone encouraged, to read and write. Indians were only accepted if they conformed to the social norm of unintelligence. He stood out from the crowd with his drive for change and unwillingness to conform to society’s expectations of what he could accomplish.
Sherman Alexie was able to “save his life” through the power of reading and writing. From the moment Alexie was born, he was expected to fail because of the circumstances he was born into- Indian, lower class, and living on a reservation. He knew that reading was the key to overcoming his adversaries and creating a difference, not only in his life but in the lives of other Indian children. While Alexie enjoyed reading, he also read out of desperation to achieve. Through Sherman Alexie’s consistent reading, he was able to save his life. He never gave in to the stereotypes his community placed upon him. He was able to become a writer, a career that is not usually pursued by Indians. Through all of his hard work, he was able to not only save his own life from becoming insignificant, but work towards saving other young Indians’ lives as well through the gift of literacy during his visits to Indian schools.
Throughout the story, “Superman and Me”, the central question is answered to full extent. The author treats the central question with pride. He was proud of what he was able to accomplish through his drive at such a young age and knows that he was lucky to be born into a home were reading was normalized instead of looked down upon. He acknowledges the he is lucky for this. This gave him the willpower to keep going even when everyone from his culture as well as from other cultures were telling him to stick to the status quo.
Analysis Of Rhetorical Devices In Sherman Alexie’s Superman And Me
Superman and Me is a memoir written by Sherman Alexie in 1998. It’s about Sherman’s childhood and how reading a Superman comic book made an impact on his life. Sherman Alexie is a writer who comes from Native American culture and was not given a bright future. He believes not only reading books will help a student learn, it will save their lives.
Alexie uses pathos to the appeal the reader by called himself “little Indian boy” in his story who teaches himself how to read at an early age and learns quickly.” He does not consider himself a genius but he considers himself the little Indian boy who can read and was able to advance his reading skills because of his passion for books and literature. Alexie “read books late into the night” until he “could barely keep” his “eyes open. The relationship between Alexie and literature was so powerful that it was like paper and glue stuck to each other. His emotion tells the reader about how reading could influence the reader and Sherman Alexie is a victim of that influence.
Another rhetorical device Alexie uses is hyperbole. “Our house was filled with books. They were stacked in crazy piles in the bathroom, bedrooms and living rooms.” A house filled with thousands of books in every room would be a mad house. He is trying to say that he had so many books to read and is creating an image for the reader’s mind to visualize how many books he had read. This also shows how he grew up reading in his childhood life. The more books he was reading, he was saving his life by grabbing knowledge from reading texts.
Alexie masks himself as the unfortunate little Indian boy in his story to show his audience who he really is, which is an example of persona. He wants the audience to know unfortunate the Indian boy was living with the expectations to be un-sophisticated and un-social in school because of the environment he lived in. Throughout his story, he masks the boy into a child who is willing to learn by reading every book he held into his hands and read until he could barely keep his eyes open. The little Indian boy was saving himself from the destitute life he was living by educating himself from reading comic books into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into several paragraphs, and several paragraphs into a book containing more and more pages to read until his eyes were ready to be shut and be open again to read more.
This childhood memoir Superman and Me contains rhetorical devices such as pathos, hyperbole, and persona to connect to Sherman Alexie’s perspective about education. There are many children who cannot attend school because of the poor environment they live in that does not provide education for them. Environments like the ones that Alexie used to live in his childhood can influence those children into a path that will not provide them a future instead a future of more of unfortunate events to struggle in life. Reading can change a person’s life and also save their life. Alexie has shown the reader that he did not let his stereotype or the environment he lived in to affect his future. He shows that any Native American can succeed, not only Native American, but also many ethnicity in the world can also succeed like he did. Alexie will always give credit to the Superman comic book that helped him to teach himself how to read and from that day he began to save his life.
The Use Of Tone In Superman And Me By Sherman Alexie
I have always been slower at being able to learn things. Growing up it always took me longer to learn new material and I have always needed extra help. Throughout my education I have been in programs and get accommodations on specific things. It has been hard at times because everyone will understand something and I will act like I get it but I really do not. That has been the hardest part at times, but I realized that it is ok that I need extra help or extra time on learning things. In “Superman and Me,” by Sherman Alexie he uses a variation of tones in the purpose of explaining how his childhood was rough which shows his tone through society and how he was a survivor.
Sherman opens his story with an unexpected tone that his first experiences with reading, is what influenced him and how it affected his life and his career path. An example of that is when he writes “They carry neither pencil nor pen. They stare out the window. They refuse and resist. “Books,” I say to them. “Books,” I say. I throw my weight against their locked doors. The door holds. I am smart. I am arrogant. I am lucky. I am trying to save our lives”. Alexie uses repetition when he is saying “I say to them books.” “Books,” I say. Alexie uses repetition to indicate the break between himself and all of the other Indians. He uses “I” to show his separation into his own individuality. When he uses alliteration when he says “I am arrogant. I am lucky. I am trying to save our lives”. He wants to get the point across that he survived and followed one of his passion which was teaching kids. The short sentences refer to him saying that he will not fail because he is determined and has faith in himself. As an Indian he was viewed as “dumb”. The short sentences also represent that since he taught himself how to read and write as a little boy he read all the time and he was actually smart as a young kid. He is not doing it for himself he was doing it for people so they can see that Indians can be smart too. In a way he is superman for the children. Alexie is trying to save the lives of the children of the reservation whether they want it or not. Throughout the story he also uses anaphora when he continually uses the phrases “I” was trying to save my life. “They are trying to save their lives”. I am trying to save our lives”. Alexie uses anaphora because it is another attempt to emphasize his experiences reading, and the overall importance that he places on the act of reading to succeed. Although Alexie may seem of concern to only a small group of people, it should in fact concern anyone who cares about society.
Sherman switches up the tone to society and he opens up with that he struggled as a young kid, but his desire was to be successful and do what is best for his own future and also what is true to his heritage and his culture. Alexie himself writes, “The Indian kids crowd the classroom. Many are writing their own poems, short stories and novels. They have read my books. They have read many other books. They look at me with bright eyes and arrogant wonder”. In this quote he uses repetition when he writes “They have read my books”. They have read many other books”. Alexie repeats the word “books” hoping that “books” will be an echo in the children’s minds. He wanted to get the point across that these children love to read and he is feeling accomplished because they are reading his books and he has taught them how to read. He also uses alliteration when he says “They look at me with bright eyes and arrogant wonder”. He uses alliteration because many children were confused and did not know how to write which is why they were giving him blank stares. At the end of the story he uses periodic sentence. The last sentence that would show that is emphasizing that he wants to save children’s lives and make them as educated as possible.
Many Indian children were looked as that they were not capable to learn and be as smart as others in society. Society looked at them like they can’t do anything and that they will never learn like others. Indians were expected to fail in the non-Indian world. This is why he wanted to make a difference/change in their society because it’s not fair that people looked at Indians that way. Sherman wanted to be a survivor and make and impact on the world and did not want to be seen as that Indian who wasn’t smart and was looked at as “dumb”. He wanted to give children an education that they deserved. He is a survivor because without his dad he would not be the same person as he is now. He is a survivor because he managed to stick through all the negativity but that did not stop him from following one of his passions. These findings have important implications for the border domain of social injustices.
The Theme of Self-Education in Superman and Me by Sherman Alexie
What does it really mean to be self-educated? There are many different components of what it takes to be self-educated. In the case of Sherman Alexie’s Superman and Me, we see that self-education is not only just learning what a word is, and what a few letters thrown together looks like. Instead it is taking many of those things and conceptual ideas and applying them to everyday life. Something that people don’t really think about generally is that children do this a lot. They are like sponges absorbing information from everywhere around them. I agree with Alexie’s definition on education and what it means to be literate.
As told in Superman and Me by Sherman Alexie, learning to read is not hard once you become dedicated and find some interest in it. It helps that he was surrounded by all books because it somewhat “forced” him to have an interest in his surroundings. Alexie says, “Our house was filled with books. They were stacked in crazy piles in the bathroom, bedrooms and living room. … My father loved books, and since I loved my father with an aching devotion, I decided to love books as well.” (Alexie p. 15) You can say that Alexie’s role model was his father in the sense that he wanted to love what his dad loved. This helped spark the “love/fiery interest” of learning how to read and gaining an understanding of it. What’s crazy about this story is that to the outside world Alexie was considered poor, but his father understood what reading could do for a young child. Therefore he surrounded his children in books. Even if it wasn’t the newest book, it was still some type of pathway for greater knowledge.
Young children use a lot of context clues to make sense of their surroundings. Alexie states, “The words themselves were mostly foreign, but I still remember the exact moment when I first understood, with a sudden clarity, the purpose of a paragraph.” (Alexie p. 15) When he started reading he did not know what a paragraph was but using his context clues he was able to form an idea on what it was and what its purpose was. He said, “I realized that a paragraph was a fence that held words. … They had some specific reason for being inside the same fence.” (Alexie p. 16) It’s amazing to think that a child can come up with a thought so grand and novel like that. He wasn’t only able to keep this applied to just reading, but also to the life around him. This is a huge part of being educated, when you can use what you learn and apply it to an everyday thing. In the story, Alexie says, “I began to think of everything in terms of paragraphs. Our reservation was a small paragraph within the United States. My family’s house was a paragraph… Inside our house, each family member existed as a separate paragraph but still had genetics and common experiences to link us. … At the same time I was seeing the world in paragraphs…” (Alexie p. 16) This is the moment that everything comes together. The reading and the context clues and bigger ideas become a grand thought process that people are then able to apply to multiple situations.
Being educated and literate means to have a wide span of knowledge on many different things in life. Once you open a book, that’s one more word in your vocabulary bank that will help you understand the world even more. The phrase knowledge is power, is so true because once you can read, you can understand your rights as a citizen and this, to the men who created the country, can pose a huge threat against them. It allows for minorities to rise up and rebel. Alexie tells us, “A smart Indian is a dangerous person, widely feared and ridiculed by Indians and non-Indians alike.” (Alexie p. 17) The government doesn’t want minorities to be educated enough to understand the injustices they are dealt. This is when one knows that they are truly educated. Alexie refused to live up to society’s expectations of what he was suppose to be. Living in this box was not an option for him. He says, “We were Indian children who were expected to be stupid. Most lived up to those expectations inside the classroom but subverted them on the outside. … As Indian children, we were expected to fail in the non-Indian world. Those who failed were ceremonially accepted by other Indians and appropriately pitied by non-Indians.” (Alexie p. 18) He was determined to be successful at reading and began to have a love for it. Failing was not an option for him. He even said, “I refused to fail. I was smart. I was arrogant. I was lucky.” (Alexie p. 19) In this second to last paragraph he states fourteen times “I read…” There were many instances where he would just be eager to pick up anything with words on it and read. It became an addiction sort of. But the addiction wasn’t just for laugh and giggles, it was for something much greater than that. Alexie tells us that his reason for reading so much was, “I was trying to save my life.” (Alexie p. 19) At the end of the story he tells us that he is not only trying to save his life, but he is trying to save their (Indians) lives as well.
As we have seen being educated means gaining knowledge for a purpose bigger than oneself. When one can take what they have read and apply it to a bigger meaning in life, they have unlocked many doors for themselves in life. Hard work and dedication are two major factors for getting the most knowledge out of oneself as they possibly can. Alexie has definitely shown us what it means to be self-educated and have literacy about what was read.